Better Know a Head Coaching Candidate: David Joerger

Christian Petersen

After a decade-long journey just to become an NBA assistant coach, Dave Joerger's patience might finally be rewarded. He seems poised to become the Grizzlies next head coach.

David Joerger, thought to be the Grizzlies top candidate for their head coaching vacancy, has never failed at anything in his basketball career. If you don't believe me, just take a look at his impressive resumé.

Joerger's Achievements

  • The Dakota Wizards won the International Basketball Association championship in 2000-2001, Joerger's first season as the team's head coach.
  • After the Wizards joined the Continental Basketball Association for the 2001-02 season, Joerger led the team to a championship two times, in 2002 and 2004.
  • Joerger won CBA Coach of the Year in 2002 and 2004.
  • After coaching the Wizards to a championship in 2004, Joerger left for a new opportunity in the CBA as Head Coach of the Sioux Falls Skyforce. The Skyforce had missed the playoffs for multiple years before Joerger took over, and in his first year as head coach, he led the team to a CBA championship.
  • In April 2006, Joerger headed back to take over his old team, the Wizards, and led them to a championship in the NBA's D-League in just one season coaching the team.
  • The five championships Joerger won while coaching minor-league basketball give him more than Phil Jackson, Flip Saunders, George Karl and Eric Musselman combined in their minor-league careers.
  • In his tenure as a minor-league coach, 18 of his players got called up to the NBA.
  • Joerger gets his own bobblehead made in 2008 that's given out as a game giveaway to the first 400 fans at a Dakota Wizards game in 2008.
  • Joerger boasts a record of 232-117 (.665) as a head coach.
  • After ten years coaching minor-league teams and winning a championship 5/10 years as a head coach, or 50% of the time, Joerger is hired to become an Assistant Coach for the Memphis Grizzlies under Marc Iavaroni in 2007.
  • He coached the Grizzlies 2009 NBA Summer League team to a 5-0 record.
  • In 2011, Hollins promoted Joerger to be his lead assistant and put him in charge of the team's defense.
  • When Hollins put Joerger in charge of the defensive game plan, the Grizzlies defense was ranked 24th. In the three seasons since, the Grizzlies defense has finished to ninth, seventh, and second this season.

After reading that, the only conclusion to draw is that Joerger is a winner. He always has been. Joerger is known in NBA circles as a consummate professional and a student of the game, and his basketball intelligence is through the roof. What's even more impressive is his ability to fully understand players' capabilities and being able to squeeze the most out of these capabilities without misusing his players. You don't send 18 players to the NBA from minor-league teams if you don't know how to develop players.

Other than his success as a player developer, he is one of the top defensive minds in all of basketball. One of the most flattering things that's been said about Joerger came from an NBA General Manager.

You don't send 18 players to the NBA from minor-league teams if you don't know how to develop players.


In a conversation with ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz, the general manager said "He's got Thibodeau's thing for defense, but he's a lot more likable than Thibs." Thibodeau has long been known as one of the top defensive head coaches in the NBA, so to be likened to Thibs is an incredible compliment for Joerger. Also, the second part of that quote is no surprise to me. Thibs often seems cold on the sideline and in press conferences. Joerger gives off a warm aura, and he has been said to be a humorous guy with a good personality by media personalities that covered him when he was coaching in the minor-leagues. Joerger's personality would be a welcome change to the always blunt, seemingly grumpy Lionel Hollins.

Joerger's acumen as a defensive coach will carry weight among the Grizzlies new management group as they choose the team's next head coach, what might matter more is his overall philosophy. It's no secret that this new ownership group and the people that they have appointed to run day-to-day operations highly value analytics. Joerger is known to value analytics as well.


According to the same ESPN.com article by Arnovitz that I cited earlier, Joerger "knows which NBA point guards, in descending order, reject screens most frequently and understands how to impart that information to players." Analytics and advanced statistics are useless in basketball unless you know what they mean and how to use them to give your team an advantage. Joerger seems to have a clear handle on that, and that would seemingly give him a huge leg up in the Grizzlies' coaching search.

Hollins can complain all he wants and throw out that tired line "he wasn't a defensive coach until I made him a defensive coach." But the truth is, whether Hollins had made him his defensive coach or not, Joerger is simply too good of a coach for his talent to not shine through. The beautiful thing about Joerger is that while he is known as a meticulous coach that understands all the technicalities and schemes of the game, he is also a player's coach. Judging solely on results, he seems to relate to players well. If he didn't, Conley would have likely never become one of the best defensive point guards in the league, Zach Randolph would not have had his career resurgence, and Tony Allen would not publicly credit Joerger's scheme as an essential ingredient to the Grizzlies success. Before these things could be accomplished, relationships had to be built and walls had to be broken down. Joerger has been around the game long enough to understand how to relate to players, and he seems to be succeeding with ease.

All in all, Joerger is one of the smartest coaches in the game, and he is still young which makes him all the more valuable. It's cliché, but if his previous success as a head coach is any indication, the sky would be the limit for him as the Grizzlies head coach. The Grizzlies better move quick, because Joerger is certainly not short on other job opportunities.

If his resumé has proven anything, it's that he deserves a chance as an NBA head coach. Hopefully that chance will come with the Grizzlies.

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